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Inversions of landslide strength as a proxy for subsurface weathering

October 14, 2022

Distributions of landslide size are hypothesized to reflect hillslope strength, and consequently weathering patterns. However, the association of weathering and critical zone architecture with mechanical strength properties of parent rock and soil are poorly-constrained. Here we use three-dimensional stability to analyze 7330 landslides in western Oregon to infer combinations of strength - friction angles and cohesion - through analysis of both failed and reconstructed landslide terrain. Under a range of conditions, our results demonstrate that the failure envelope that relates shear strength and normal stress in landslide terrain is nonlinear owing to an exchange in strength with landslide thickness. Despite the variability in material strength at large scales, the observed gradient in proportional cohesive strength with landslide thickness may serve as a proxy for subsurface weathering. We posit that the observed relationships between strength and landslide thickness are associated with the coalescence of zones of low shear strength driven by fractures and weathering, which constitutes a first-order control on the mechanical behavior of underlying soil and rock mass.

Publication Year 2022
Title Inversions of landslide strength as a proxy for subsurface weathering
DOI 10.1038/s41467-022-33798-5
Authors Stefano Alberti, Ben Leshchinksy, Joshua J. Roering, Jonathan P. Perkins, Michael Olsen
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Nature Communications
Index ID 70237609
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Geology, Minerals, Energy, and Geophysics Science Center